“We have teams of people that are out looking. They’ve investigated a number of sites. And within the last week or two, they have in fact captured and have in custody two of the mobile trailers that Secretary Powell talked about at the United Nations as being biological weapons laboratories.”
Infinity Radio Interview
May 31, 2003
“Is it an embarrassment to people on the other side that we’ve discovered these biological production vans, which the defector told us about?”
May 31, 2003
Now that the Bush’s commission has released it’s “scathing report,” finding that intelligence from “America’s spy agencies” was “dead wrong,” it’s time to take a look back at the character emerging as the favored scapegoat, the infamous “Curveball.”
According to Adam Entous reporting for Reuters, Curveball was “…the ‘pivotal’ source behind the intelligence community’s escalating warnings about Iraq’s biological weapons programs before the invasion.”
Assertions that Iraq was cooking up biological agents in mobile labs to elude international inspectors and Western intelligence services — based almost exclusively on Curveball’s information — became what the report called one of the “most important and alarming” assessments in the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate cited by President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in justifying the war.
Who is this amazing Curveball, who was able almost singlehandedly to make the Bush Administration believe that Saddam Hussein had mobile chemical weapons factories? As was reported a year ago
Curveball is the brother of a top aide of Ahmad Chalabi, the pro-western Iraqi former exile with links to the Pentagon.
A whole family of “Heroes in Error!”
Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress, darling (even now) of the War Party, and opportunistic peddler of whatever lies his sponsors needed to sell the invasion of Iraq. Shouldn’t we peer back through the fog of time and reconstruct just how the Bushies came to put forward such Heroes in Error? Maybe we should look all the way back to the Office of Special Plans, that stovepiping secret intelligence group that operated through VP Cheney’s office:
…what the Bush people did was “dismantle the existing filtering process that for fifty years had been preventing the policymakers from getting bad information. They created stovepipes to get the information they wanted directly to the top leadership. Their position is that the professional bureaucracy is deliberately and maliciously keeping information from them.
“They always had information to back up their public claims, but it was often very bad information,” Pollack continued. “They were forcing the intelligence community to defend its good information and good analysis so aggressively that the intelligence analysts didn’t have the time or the energy to go after the bad information.”
The Administration eventually got its way, a former C.I.A. official said. “The analysts at the C.I.A. were beaten down defending their assessments. And they blame George Tenet”—the C.I.A. director—“for not protecting them. I’ve never seen a government like this.”
The defectors, however, had an audience prepared to believe the worst. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had long complained about the limits of American intelligence. In the late nineteen-nineties, for example, he had chaired a commission on ballistic-missile programs that criticized the unwillingness of intelligence analysts “to make estimates that extended beyond the hard evidence they had in hand.” After he became Secretary of Defense, a separate intelligence unit was set up in the Pentagon’s policy office, under the control of William Luti, a senior aide to Feith. This office, which circumvented the usual procedures of vetting and transparency, stovepiped many of its findings to the highest-ranking officials.
Chalabi’s defector reports were now flowing from the Pentagon directly to the Vice-President’s office, and then on to the President, with little prior evaluation by intelligence professionals. When INR analysts did get a look at the reports, they were troubled by what they found. “They’d pick apart a report and find out that the source had been wrong before, or had no access to the information provided,” Greg Thielmann told me. “There was considerable skepticism throughout the intelligence community about the reliability of Chalabi’s sources, but the defector reports were coming all the time. Knock one down and another comes along. Meanwhile, the garbage was being shoved straight to the President.”
A routine settled in: the Pentagon’s defector reports, classified “secret,” would be funnelled to newspapers, but subsequent C.I.A. and INR analyses of the reports—invariably scathing but also classified—would remain secret.
“It became a personality issue,” a Pentagon consultant said of the Bush Administration’s handling of intelligence. “My fact is better than your fact. The whole thing is a failure of process. Nobody goes to primary sources.” The intelligence community was in full retreat.
In the spring of 2002, the former White House official told me, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz began urging the President to release more than ninety million dollars in federal funds to Chalabi. The 1998 Iraq Liberation Act had authorized ninety-seven million dollars for the Iraqi opposition, but most of the funds had not been expended. The State Department opposed releasing the rest of the money, arguing that Chalabi had failed to account properly for the funds he had already received. “The Vice-President came into a meeting furious that we hadn’t given the money to Chalabi,” the former official recalled. Cheney said, “Here we are, denying him money, when they”—the Iraqi National Congress—“are providing us with unique intelligence on Iraqi W.M.D.s.”
It was “unique intelligence” all right. As Robert Dreyfuss and Jason Vest write in their dissection of the OSP, “The Lie Factory,”
According to multiple sources, Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress sent a steady stream of misleading and often faked intelligence reports into U.S. intelligence channels. That information would flow sometimes into NESA/OSP directly, sometimes through Defense Intelligence Agency debriefings of Iraqi defectors via the Defense Human Intelligence Service, and sometimes through the INC’s own U.S.-funded Intelligence Collection Program, which was overseen by the Pentagon. The INC’s intelligence “isn’t reliable at all,” according to Vincent Cannistraro, a former CIA chief of counterterrorism. “Much of it is propaganda. Much of it is telling the Defense Department what they want to hear, using alleged informants and defectors who say what Chalabi wants them to say, [creating] cooked information that goes right into presidential and vice presidential speeches.”
When we see statements like this: “… the Bush administration relied on bogus intelligence from a mysterious Iraqi chemical engineer code-named ‘Curveball’,” let’s remember how that “intelligence” was created, lest we be mislead by propagandistic lines like this,
…..the presidential commission that investigated intelligence failures in Iraq cast Curveball as the “pivotal” source behind the intelligence community’s escalating warnings about Iraq’s biological weapons programs before the invasion.
The “intelligence community” which used Curveball “intelligence” certainly wasn’t part of this community:
An Iraqi defector nicknamed Curveball who wrongly claimed that Saddam Hussein had mobile chemical weapons factories was last night at the centre of a bitter row between the CIA and Germany’s intelligence agency.
German officials said that they had warned American colleagues well before the Iraq war that Curveball’s information was not credible – but the warning was ignored.
It was the Iraqi defector’s testimony that led the Bush administration to claim that Saddam had built a fleet of trucks and railway wagons to produce anthrax and other deadly germs.
In his presentation to the UN security council in February last year, the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, explicitly used Curveball’s now discredited claims as justification for war. The Iraqis were assembling “mobile production facilities for biological agents”, Mr Powell said, adding that his information came from “a solid source”.
These “killer caravans” allowed Saddam to produce anthrax “on demand”, it was claimed. US officials never had direct access to the defector, and have subsequently claimed that the Germans misled them.
Yesterday, however, German agents told Die Zeit newspaper that they had warned the Bush administration long before last year that there were “problems” with Curveball’s account. “We gave a clear credibility assessment. On our side at least, there were no tricks before Colin Powell’s presentation,” one source told the newspaper.
Who “misled” the “intelligence community?” As Justin Raimondo points out in today’s column, “The system did not just break down all by itself: somebody sabotaged it, and that is pretty clearly the “analysts” who fed on the lies concocted by Chalabi & Co. ”
ADDED BY POPULAR REQUEST:
“We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories. You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said, Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons. They’re illegal. They’re against the United Nations resolutions, and we’ve so far discovered two. And we’ll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven’t found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they’re wrong, we found them.”
George W. Bush
Interview, TVP Poland
May 29, 2003